Time Series in Google Earth

Some of our Google Earth files, such as the sea ice file, include a time series of images, depicting variability or changes over time. When files include time information, you can use the time slider in Google Earth to play the series of images as an animation, to control the speed of the animation, and to stop and start the animation on any selected time span.

To use the time slider, you must have Google Earth version 4.0.2080 (Windows, Linux) or 4.0.2722 (Mac) or later.

Enabling the Time Slider

To use the time slider, from the "View" menu in Google Earth, make sure that "Show Time"->"Always" is checked. Then, when a KML or KMZ file with time information is opened, the time slider will appear. Setting "Show Time" to "Automatic" makes the time slider appear only when the mouse is hovering in the correct region (top of the screen, just right of center).

image of Google Earth screen

Enabling the time slider in Google Earth

Using the Time Slider Controls

To play the animation, click on the Play button (the dark gray arrowhead at the right of the slider). Click the Pause button (dual bars) to stop the animation.

You can adjust the time span of the images by dragging the vertical edges of the time range markers. You can also grab the bottom edge to move the range backwards and forwards through the total time range of the file. NSIDC files with time information work best with the time span on the slider minimized.

The white arrows on either side of the time slider step the animation forward or backward.

image of Google Earth time slider     image of Google Earth time slider

The time slider and its controls

Advanced Options

The clock icon, on the far left of the time slider, opens the advanced options dialog. The slider within the dialog controls the animation speed. Most animations work best with the speed at the slowest (furthest left) setting.

The "Repeat Mode" choice in the lower right corner allows you to set the animation to wrap (loop), bounce (back and forth), or play only once.

image of time slider options screen

Options dialog for the time slider

Performance Considerations

Unless they are intended to be complimentary, time series animations rarely work well together. We recommend viewing only one time series animation at a time. Check the box labeled "Restrict time to currently selected folder" to enforce this behavior automatically.

Time series animations can be memory and CPU intensive. Larger image sets may have performance impacts on older computers.

Related Resources

Google Earth user reference

More information on using the Google Earth time feature.

KML 2.1 Reference

Developing Google Earth files to use the time feature.

Google Earth Outreach

Help from Google Earth on creating KML files, and a showcase.

Google Earth Outreach: Adding Time as a Fourth Dimension

Tips from Google Earth on adding time information to files.